BARTON is being built up, Cumnor is getting crowded, a green field off Botley road is about to be tarmacked to make a new carpark, and the badgers are on the run.

According to Oxfordshire Badger Group, these much-maligned mammals are being forced out of setts across the city and onto railways and roads, to meet a predictable fate.

In the words of chairman Julia Hammett, we have reached a 'crisis point'.

She told environment reporter Pete Hughes how her group is calling on the whole city to join the fight to save these black-and-white burrowers – before it is too late.

WHEN Oxford University was building its controversial student flats on Roger Dudman Way, there was a national furore about whether they were a few metres too high.

The towering tiff overshadowed what was, for some, a much greater concern: the badgers.

Quietly, and without most people noticing, the university's contractors blocked up a badger sett on the site and created an artificial replacement nearby.

It was all perfectly legal: the university obtained a licence from Natural England, although it declined to comment on this story.

But Oxfordshire Badger Group soon started receiving reports from neighbours of badgers running along the railway line, wandering through gardens and breaking down fences in a confused attempt to reach fresh foraging ground.

It's a picture which the group says is all too familiar.

Cumnor Hill was once home to a healthy badger sett with more than 30 holes.

Now, with new homes shooting up over the hill, the badger group says there are just three or four active holes with badgers living in them.

More often, badgers are discovered dead on the road.

Badger group chairman Julia Hammett describes it as a 'mass-slaughter on the roads' and says the population there is barely 'hanging on'.

Dead badgers have also become a more common sight on the Oxford Ring Road near Barton, where the 885-home Barton Park estate is rising slowly over the green fields.

Grosvenor, which is building the estate in partnership with Oxford City Council, said it found a sett there in 2009 and identified five badger social groups in the area.

As with Roger Dudman Way, the developers said they carried out full ecology surveys and promised to 'enhance' badger habitat by blocking off the sett and encouraging the badgers to relocate to a new artificial sett with 15 chambers.

All the same, the badger group said that shortly after the construction work started, badgers were killed on the road.

Oxfordshire Badger Group fears that the mitigation attempts may not be working and confused badgers scurry onto the roads in an attempt to escape the construction work.

Now the city council is planning to extend the car park at Seacourt Park and Ride on Botley Road onto a neighbouring green field, and for the badger lovers, it is the final straw.

As always, the council said it carried out full habitat and ecology surveys on the site which found 'no currently used setts on the land'.

However the group insists there are badgers in the area which might be displaced from the land.

Members have now created a petition against the development, urging the council to withdraw its plans.

The group says badgers and other wildlife 'thrive on this rich and delightful open space' and will 'suffer immensely' if the park and ride is extended.

Ms Hammett warned that people need to look at the cumulative impact on badgers from all these developments together.

The sixth form college teacher, who lives in North Hinksey, said: "The big problem about Seacourt is they've underestimated the impact the development is going to have, but it's going to be huge.

"There are badgers living there and have been for as long as we've been studying them which is 30 years.

"I think we're at a crisis point: what is going to be the cumulative impact? Can we trust the city council to protect our wildlife?"

Ms Hammett insists she is not anti-development: she has two sons who cannot afford to buy a house in Oxford, and wants to see more affordable housing.

But she says many residents are also worried about wildlife.

Parts of Oxford still have very healthy badger populations: the Oxford University-owned Wytham Woods just outside the city has one of the densest concentrations of badgers in the country.

But with hundreds more houses in the pipeline for major sites around the city such as Grenoble Road, Ms Hammett says more badgers are under threat.

She said: "We'll wake up on day and now we'll have lots of houses and concrete but no wild areas.

"Oxford is famous for its green setting but it could all go because of the rather unrealistic housing targets which have been foisted on us.

"There is no overall strategy for wildlife corridors."

More than 750 people have now signed the badger group's petition out of the target of 800.

Members intend to present the final petition to Oxford City Council planning committee meeting when the application is decided, set to be sometime in February.

Ms Hammett added: "It really does rely on local people standing up."

Find out more about the group and sign the petition online at